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'At a crossroads': Manitoba festivals struggling as attendees face tighter budgets


The organization representing festivals and large events across Canada says many are facing a challenging season ahead, with organizers in Manitoba also feeling the pinch.

Martin Roy, executive director of Festivals and Major Events Canada (FAME) says almost all major events are in a difficult situation this year, regardless of ticket sales.

“The pandemic and the subsequent surge in inflation have had negative repercussions affecting hundreds of events, some of which are now at a crossroads,” he said in a statement to CTV News Winnipeg.

It’s a sentiment echoed by organizers at festivals here in Manitoba.

The Winnipeg International Jazz Festival says fans were trying to make up for lost pandemic time at last year’s festival. This year, audiences are playing a different tune.

“With things like inflation and the cost of living increases, we're seeing people being a lot more strategic and cautious about where they're spending their entertainment dollars,” said Zachary Rushing, director of programming with Jazz Winnipeg.

It’s a similar story at Dauphin’s Countryfest.

Organizers say ticket sales have been stronger this year, but patrons are more reluctant to buy tickets in advance than in years past.

“Festivals, in particular, rely on advance ticket sales to provide cash to pay deposits to artists and service providers,” Dauphin’s Countryfest president Duane McMaster said in an email.

“While ticket sales at the gate are fantastic and we always see a number of people showing up to purchase tickets, it is the advance ticket sales that allow events like ours to get off the ground.”

He adds the economy and inflation are likely playing a role, with less funds available to households for recreation than a few years ago.

Meantime, not all Manitoba festivals are singing the blues.

Ticket sales are strong one month out from the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

"For a lot of folks, going to the Folk Festival is just part of their family or friend group tradition, so the summer isn't quite complete unless they're going,” said Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Valerie Shantz.

Still, the challenges other organizers are facing are not lost on her.

"We've been watching some of our sister festivals, and we see them struggling."

Despite the challenges, the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival says it's sticking to its guns by continuing to bring in high-quality performers, and letting audiences know about the value they'll get from this festival.

"We're trying to offer a festival experience, both indoors and out, that exceeds the expectations of our attendees,” Rushing said. Top Stories

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